Observing, problem-posing, hypothesizing, experimenting, and theorizing-these are the most common procedural steps in scientific investigations. To determine what science means in wider contexts, we must examine what scientific methodology implies and, more especially what it does not imply.

First, scientific investigation defines the domain of science. Anything that is amenable to scientific investigation, now or in the future, is or will be within the domain of science; anything that is not amenable to such investigation is not in the scientific domain.

An awareness of these limits can help us avoid many inappropriate controversies. For example, does the idea of God lend itself to scientific scrutiny? Suppose we wish to test the hypothesis that God is universal and exist everywhere and in everything.

Being untested as yet, this hypothesis could be right or wrong. An experiment about God would then require experimental control, or two situations, one with God and one without, but otherwise identical.


If our hypothesis is correct, God would indeed exist everywhere. Hence, he would be present in every test we could possibly make, and we would nerve be able to devise a situation in which God is not present. Yet we need such a situation for a controlled experiment.

But if our hypothesis is wrong, He would not exist and would therefore be absent from any test we could possibly make. We would then never be able to devise a situation in which God is present. Yet we would need such a situation for a controlled experiment.

Right or wrong, our hypothesis is untreatable, since we cannot run a controlled experiment. Therefore, we cannot carry out a scientific investigation. The point is that the concept of God falls outside the domain of science, and science cannot legitimately say anything about Him.

It should be carefully noted that this is a far cry from saying “science disproves God”, or “scientists must be godless; their method demands it.” Nothing of the sort. Science specifically leaves anyone perfectly free to believe in any god whatsoever or in none. Many first-rate scientists are priests; many others are agnostics. Science commits you to nothing more and to nothing less than adherence to the ground rules of proper scientific inquiry.


It may be noted that such adherence is a matter of faith, just as belief in God or confidence in the telephone directory is a matter of faith. Whatever other faiths they may or may not hold, all scientists certainly have strong faith in scientific methodology. So do those laymen who feel that having electric lights and not having bubonic plague are good things.

A second consequence of scientific methodology is that rot defines the aim and purpose of science. The objective of science is to make and to use theories. Many believe that the objective of science is to discover “truth”, to find out ‘”facts”.

We must be very careful here about the meaning of words. The word “truth” is popularly used in two senses. It can indicate a temporary correctness, as in saying, “it is true that my hair is brown”. Or it can indicate an absolute, eternal correctness, as in saying, “In plane geometry, the sum of the angles of a triangle is 180”.

From the earlier discussion of the nature of scientific investigation, it should be clear that science cannot deal with truth of the absolute variety. Something absolute is finished, known completely once and for all, and nothing further needs to be found out. Science can only supply evidence for theories, and “theory” is simply another word for relative truth. Because the word “truth” is ambiguous if not laboriously qualified, scientists try not to use it at all.


The words “fact” and “proof have a similar drawback. Both can indicate either something absolute or something relative. If absolute they are not science; if relative, we actually deal with evidence. Thus, science is content to find evidence for theories, and it does not deal with truths, proofs, or facts.

A third important implication of scientific methodology is that it does not make value judgments or moral decisions. Very often, of course, we do place valuations on scientific results, but such assessments are human valuations and different people frequently assess the same results quite differently. Scientific results by themselves do not contain any built-in values, and nowhere in scientific inquiry is there a value-revealing step.

Thus the science that produces medicines for healing and creating of weapons for destroying and killing cannot of itself determine if such tools are good or bad. The decision in each case rests on the moral opinions of humanity, those of scientists included.

Similarly, beauty, love, evil, happiness, virtue, justice, liberty, financial worth-all these are human values about which science as such is silent and noncommittal. For the same reason, it would also be folly to strive for a strictly “scientific” way of the life or to expect strictly “scientific” government.


To be sure, the role of science will might be enlarged in areas of personal and public life where science can make a legitimate contribution. But a civilization that adhered exclusively to the rules of scientific methods could never tell, for example, whether it is right or wrong to commit murder or whether it is good or bad to love one’s neighbour.

Science cannot and does not give such answers. This circumstance does not mean, however, that science does away with morals. The implication merely is that science cannot determine if one ought to have moral standards, or what particular set of moral standards one ought to live by.